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Things I Have Learned

Young Knives On Growing Up In The East Midlands
Julian Marszalek , March 29th, 2011 06:35

Neither north nor south, the English Midlands are a confusing place bisected by railways and the M1 and A1. Some would say the Midlands are hard to love. Today, local boys House Of Lords and Henry Dartnall of Young Knives give us a guide. Pic by Cat Stevens.

Despite what Kasabian say, the Midlands are not the North

Henry Dartnall: The East Midlands are not the north whatever Kasabian say. Although we are more Northern than them. But it's neither here nor there, that's why it's the Midlands. But the thing about here in Oxford is that we're only an hour away from Leicester and Northampton's only about half an hour away.

House Of Lords: See, when you go up North and say that you're from Leicestershire, they go, 'Oh! You're Southern!'

HD: I think when you get to Nottingham you can say that you're almost North. But in Nottingham they refer to 'baps' but when you get to the North then it's a 'cobb'. But in the Midlands it's rare that you get gravy in a chip shop. But where we were – because it was a coal mining area – the accent is really influenced by the Derbyshire accent. So that feels a bit more Northern and Derbyshire really has that Northern edge to it.

Ashby-de-la-Zouche has become posher yet rougher

HD: It's quite posh there now. I go back to see my parents and it's definitely moved up a bit. We were on the one new street in a village of old houses so we were quite ostracised and beaten up by the village kids. We were seen as the posh kids because we lived in 1970s Barrett Homes type houses. Which was weird because my parents were the least aspirational people in the world. But Ashby-de-la-Zouche has got a lot of old tradition and there's a lot of family stuff there and there are all the old statutes. But we saw it change from a quiet market town with a cool record shop into a Friday night nightmare. If you walked down the street wearing flares that you bought from a charity shop when you were 16 you'd get severely harassed. We used to wear eye-liner and flares on purpose and go into Ashby on a Friday night almost to get hassled.

HOL: When were growing up, there were almost no police but by the time we left you'd see police vans on the High Street on a Saturday night. And the police would go, 'Are you some kind of goth?'

You cannot escape heavy metal in the Midlands

HD: There's a lot of metal in the Midlands.

HOL: At school, everyone was into heavy metal and it was the first music that you'd get introduced to.

HD: And there was also that Stourbridge scene. All the fraggle rock and grebo bands and that was huge influence on our early years. It made me miss out on the Stone Rose and Happy Mondays because the scene was so much stronger. And so every band did a cover of 'Kill Your Television'.

The Bill's Tosh Lyons showed the way out of the East Midlands

HD: The plus-side and the downside of growing up in the Midlands was that we thought that we'd never achieve anything. Say you're walking around near the BBC in London and you see people like Stephen Fry and that makes it look achievable but in Ashby I had no idea that I could achieve anything. But then I found out that Tosh Lyons from The Bill was from Derby and I remember thinking, 'What? How?' I was trying to see how that worked. What was the mechanism that makes that person end up there? I didn't even cross my mind that I could do something similar. The problem is that coming from the East Midlands you don't aim very high.

Crust-based food is the regional dish

HD: The Pukka pie typifies the East Midlands cuisine. The very name sounds as if it's from the Midlands. But then again, there's the Melton Mowbray pork pie. I remember when we were kids my mum worked a lot with Bangladeshi people where she used to go round to their houses and teach people English. If you went round with her after school you'd get your face blown off because they always had a big pot of something cooking so of course, things like samosas are definitely part of that.

The countryside, beer and porn awaits the casual visitor

HD: There's nice countryside and the beers are good. The Bass brewery in Burton-On-Trent was near to us. And near Loughborough you have some lovely forests but it gets quite rocky. It's one of those areas where the woods are full of porno mags.

It's all a bit dull, really

HD: We've got a weird relationship with the East Midlands. I always tried to leave the area and now that I have I quite like it. But it was always like a cultural no mans' land. But it's a total mish-mash of stuff. But as an example of how it dull it was, our guitar teacher was in Showaddywaddy 2. And Showaddywaddy's drummer owned the nightclub just outside our village. Out of town nightclubs were a popular feature of the East Midlands and they couldn't get anybody there unless they put a taxi rank right in the middle of the car park. Now it's all boarded up and looking very sorry.

Young Knives new LP Ornaments from the Silver Arcade is out on Monday